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Review of Frameworks for the Representation of Alternative Conceptual Orderings as Determined by Cultural and Linguistic Contexts


Project on Information Overload and Information Underuse (IOIU) of the Global Learning Division of the United Nations University (Area 6: Coding and the socio-cultural context of information, 1986)

Introduction
Clarification of scope
Symptoms of the problem
Cultural determination of information processing
Skewing between languages and cross-language equivalence
Determination of information processing within languages and cultures
Modelling inter-linguistic discontinuity
Implications
Conclusion

References
Annexes
1: Interpretations of cross-cultural information processing implications of Hofstede study
2: Difficulties in the transfer of information between languages


Introduction
Clarification of scope
Symptoms of the problem: points of entry
Medium as the message
Senses
Forms of 'illiteracy'
Frames of mind: multiple intelligences
Axes of bias
Epistemological mindscape
Cultural determination of information processing
Skewing between languages and cross-language equivalences
Determination of information processing within languages and cultures
Pragmatic dismissal
Hidden problem
Working hypothesis
Modelling inter-linguistic discontinuity
Varieties of language
Communicable insights: the geometry of connectivity
Languages as frozen portions of learning cycles
Wholeness and the implicate order
Configuration of languages as a resonance hybrid
Implications
Re-interpretation of information overload/underuse
Need for insightful metaphors
Shifting 'polyocular vision'
Conclusions
References

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Introduction

This paper explores the influences of implicit or unconscious filters on the question of information overload and information underuse. There appears to be relatively little research into this question and therefore the paper attempts to identify a number of 'points of entry' through which the dimensions of the question can be understood. 

There has of course been a great deal of research into the semantic and psychological aspects of communication breakdown but in recent years this has tended to emphasizes communication as a 'people process rather than as a language process' (1, p 205). 

Basically the issue appears to be one of the consequences of differences in methods of expression, conception or learning. This is typified by differences in cultures and languages. But both culture and language need to be understood in their broadest sense in order to recognize the dimensions of the issue. In particular it is not sufficient, as is usually the case, to dismiss 'culture' as being of negligible influence on information processing or as constituting a barrier which can be easily overcome. Nor is it sufficient to consider the information implications of differences of 'language' as easily surmountable by a variety of translation procedures or the adoption of a common language. It is precisely the prevalence of such 'superficial' attitudes, together with the remarkable sophistication with which data can now be manipulated by computer, telecommunications and surveillance technology, which has led to the assumption that any associated difficulties are purely of a technical nature. The assumption is reinforced by the interesting results already achieved in work on machine translation. This paper attempts to demonstrate that the momentum of the technical approach to information, and the associated investments, have drawn attention away from fundamental problems which are vital to any effective response to the issues of information overload and information underuse. 

It should be stressed that this paper is not primarily concerned with the implications of different languages or cultures as social phenomena. Such differences are viewed here as the more easily recognized manifestations of a more fundamental problem. But precisely because of their more recognizable characteristics, concern with such characteristics has tended to obscure the conceptual problems implied by such differences. It is these conceptual problems which are to be found in other arenas in which differences are not so clearly demarcated, as in the case of languages or cultures, and where they are therefore even more easily ignored or dismissed. 

Recognition of these issues is rendered especially difficult because any apparent success in describing them within one conceptual framework or language effectively obscures the nature, depth or subtlety of the differences. These can only be begun to be appreciated through the process of switching to some second framework or language. The difference is appreciated experientially in the contrast. Its quality is lost to a great extent in explanations of it within one or other framework. Hence the ease with which the significance of such differences can be denied. Possibly only much later, or when it is too late, is it appreciated how people, groups and organizations develop implicit areas of non-communication which contribute significantly to the problem of information overload and information underuse. 

contribute significantly to the problem of information overload and information underuse. 


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